Imagine you’re at a fancy ball. I know, this might be a bit of a stretch, but bear with me. You’re at a ball and you’ve started dancing with a very nice partner – but instead of clasping hands and whisking off through the night, you’ve turned your back and waltzed off alone. Your partner is left staring at you, bored and rejected, and eventually wanders away.
Bear with me again when I tell you this is exactly how most people treat networking.
Think of your most recent networking meeting and the people you met. Now think of the way people told you what they do (and probably the way you told them what you do). Most of these elevator pitches sounded exactly the same: “Me! Me! Me!” They focus on the speaker, not on the prospect.
These pitches end up like the awkward solo waltz – you might be trying to dance with your partner, but you’ve ended up focusing on yourself. The solution? Rather than telling people what you do, and boring them in the process, engage them, allow them to dance with you, and show how they can benefit from talking with you. Make the conversation – the dance – all about them.
If done right, you’ll engage your listener to the point that you get them to ask how you can help them. All in less then 30 seconds. Do I have your attention now?
1. “What I Do” – Keep It Brief
To start, very briefly state what you do, without giving too much away. Then ask a simple question to engage them in your short presentation. For example, when talking about Criteria for Success, I’d say:
“We are a sales improvement company located in New York City, right next to Grand Central Station. Do you know where that is?”
Invariably, people will say that they know or don’t know Grand Central. Either way, you got the listener to participate. Your pitch became a conversation. You’ve also used a technique called pattern interrupt by asking an unexpected question, causing your partner to sit up and pay attention.
2. Focus on the Listener
The second step is to transition the presentation from what you do to what your partner does. Here are two important caveats: first, don’t address them directly, as doing so could make them defensive. Rather, say something general that includes them. Subtlety is golden. Caveat number two is that when you mention them, you do so with a compliment.
Here is an example:
“We help consulting firms like yours that are successful …”
3. Call Out Pain Points
The third step is to demonstrate your expertise by listing three of the main problems your listener is likely to have – their biggest pain points. If you are talking to a CEO you could say that you help companies that have low productivity, low profit margin, and bad system to get new clients. On the other hand, a CFO is more likely concerned about the fact that clients are taking too long to pay, and a sales manager is probably frustrated that his sales team does insufficient prospecting. Here’s my example, continuing from above:
“… but have no reliable system for selling, have poor sales management, and do not have a reliable way to get referrals.”
Notice that in all of these examples, I phrase the problem in the negative – an actual problem. Too many people try to be positive, afraid to say that the prospect has problems. However, if the prospect does not have problems or does not acknowledge them, he will not hire you. So instead of saying “we help companies improve their sales management system,” I recommend you say that you help companies that suffer from poor sales management. It forces the listener to think of his problem and get anxious to solve it.
4. Engage Your Listener
The fourth and last step is to bring the other person back into the conversation by asking him if he is currently experiencing any of these problems. It would sound like this:
“Are any of these concerns applicable to you” or “do any of these strike a chord?”
Here, the other person will either deny or confirm that he is going through these problems. And if he does have these problems, more often than not he will ask you how you solve them. Now you have a prospect asking you questions – good job!
Your Complete 30-Second Commercial
Let’s look at the entire speech at once:
“Criteria for Success is a sales improvement company located in New York City, right next to the Grand Central Station. Do you know where that is? Yes, right there. We help companies like yours that are successful but have no reliable system for selling, have poor sales management, and do not have a reliable way to get referrals. Are any of these concerns applicable to you?”
Simple and easy to implement, right? That is exactly what we do here at Criteria for Success; we create simple systems that enable successful companies, that do not have a reliable way to turn prospects into clients, to succeed.